Buying a car can be quite stressful and exciting in many senses of the words one of the important documents that you’ll receive when you purchase a new car is the title of the vehicle. It will be signed by the old owner and the new owner and in some cases will have some personal information recorded as well as the date of sale and purchase price. Once you take the car into the DMV to register it, the DMV makes a copy of your new title which they keep on file. At this point you likely paid sales tax on the vehicle, got a registration and a new license plate.
How Do I Get My Electronic Title Online
In most states you can get a copy of your electronic title either sent to you directly through the internet, or you can have it mailed to you. The process will vary from state to state on how you can order an electronic title record. In some states however, you have to go into the DMV office by making an appointment and pay to have them print it on the spot. To find out exactly what the protocol is for your state, visit their local website or give them a call.
What Is A Car Title?
The title of a car is the documentation provided through the state that shows who owns the vehicle. It will contain important verifying information like the year of the vehicle and the VIN (vehicle identification number) which is essentially the social security number for your car in the sense that it is completely unique to your vehicle. What exactly is included on the title will vary from state to state but the 17 character VIN which will include both numbers and letters will always be there.
The title will also generally include the:
- Color of the vehicle
- Year, make, and model and sometimes the body type
- Current odometer reading at the time of the title transfer
- The date that odometer reading was taken
- The name of the vehicle owner, including a financier if the car wasn’t bought outright
- Vehicle owner’s address
- Date of the title issued
- The type of title (clean, salvage, etc)
- Signatures of state officials in charge of motor vehicles in the state where the title was issued
The title will also include the weight of the vehicle, the cylinders in the engine, the engine number, a title number, and the license plate number in some cases. Most states require any damage information like a salvage title identification to be listed on the physical document. Salvage titles are issued when the car is declared a total loss. This happens with flooded vehicles and cars in accidents where the air bags have deployed to give you a few examples.
What Happens If You Lose Your Title?
If you lose your title, all you need to do is contact your state motor vehicle agency in your county/ state to get a duplicate. You may be able to start the the process online depending on what state you live in. In other cases you will likely have to go in person to a state or county office. If you can’t find information regarding the processes for this on the state’s website, give your local DMV or tax collectors office a call to get more info
How Does the Title of a Car Work?
A title is just the verification from the government of who owns the vehicle. It is really important to have your car titled to you. You need the car title if you want to sell the car or it is impounded. It can also be helpful to have the title of the car if the vehicle is stolen as you may need it when dealing with the police. Similarly you may need proof of when you bought or sold the vehicle if the car was used in a crime to verify it wasn’t under your ownership during that time.
Where Do You Get The Title Of The Vehicle From?
Where you get the title of the vehicle from depends on where you purchase the car. If you buy from a third party seller they should (if they don’t then do not buy the car) give you the title along with a bill of sale with their name signed on the back of the title. You then take the title of the vehicle to the DMV when you are ready to register the car and they will transfer the title into your name and create an online copy of your new title for their records.
When you buy a car from a dealership they will take care of the title transfer for you and register the vehicle as well. They don’t do it for free obviously but the cost of this service is built into the dealership fees and the cost of the vehicle.
What If I Financed My Car
If you have a lien on your vehicle, meaning you didn’t pay cash but instead took out a car loan, your title will reflect that you don’t own the vehicle outright. In some cases the title is sent to be held by the financier of you your vehicle in other cases you will still be able to hold the title of the car though you typically won’t be able to sell the vehicle without first speaking to your lender.
In early fall of 2020 there were 24 states participation in electronic lien and title programs which allowed the lender and borrower to share information about the loan payments with the state governments. This does a couple things, it allows the government to keep tabs on when cars are paid off but it also allows the lender to be notified if a title is printed for the possessor of the vehicle. In most of these states you can get the car title online.
How to Transfer a Title
On the back of the title there will be a section that allows the owner of the vehicle to sell the vehicle. It will have an information section that both parties must fill out to detail the change of ownership of the vehicle. Typically these questions include:
- Full legal names
- Legal addresses
- Purchase price of the vehicle
- Date of ownership transfer
- Odometer reading at time of sale
If the buyer took out a loan then the lender will also be included in the buyers information. To make the document legally binding both the buyer and seller will need to sign the document. In some states you need a notary present as well.
Misinformation given on the title and getting those issues fixed is handled differently from state to state. Some will have you duplicate the original title and start the process completely fresh so the seller of the car will need to be present again. Others let you mark off the information and write over it. In some cases you have to detail the mistake with an amending document.
The buyer in a third party sale is going to be responsible for transferring the title into their name using the document provided by the seller. It is important not to lose that title as it can be a whole can of worms to have the title transferred into your name if you do not have the original title from the sale. Typically to have the title transferred you must go in person with the vehicle to the DMV to have the car registered. Be sure to bring with you the bill of sale as well which is essentially your receipt.
The bill of sale should include:
- The date
- Location (city/town and state) of the purchase
- A description of the vehicle
- The names and addresses of the buyer and seller
- Signatures of both the buyer and seller
- The VIN
The seller should keep a copy of both the bill of sale and the title (signed and dated by the person who bought the car) for legal and liability reasons.
Types of Car Titles
There are various types of titles and the most common is a clean title. This means the vehicle has never had a substantial enough issue to be declared a total loss. You may see five adjectives applied to a car title: clean, clear, salvage, lemon and rebuilt. There are several titles to stay away from when buying a car they are salvage, lemon, and rebuilt.
- Clean: The vehicle was never considered totaled by an insurance company. Totaling can come from flood damage, falling trees, accidents etc. The title will reflect if it has been considered a total loss where it would cost more money to fix the vehicle.
- Clear: A clear title is given to a vehicle that is owned outright by the owner. So vehicle’s that have liens on them (were bought using financing options) will not have a clear title.
- Salvage Titles: A salvage title is indicative of the car being declared totaled by an insurance company. This may be because the car was involved in a natural disaster that flooded the car, it could also mean the vehicle was in a bad car accident. Regardless of why the vehicle was given a salvage title, you should generally avoid these cars. A salvage title will be shown on the title document and can also be seen when looking up the VIN using a tool such as Carfax.
- Lemon/ Factory Buy Back: A lemon is a car that was riddled with problems from the start. There laws on what is declared a lemon will vary from state to state, but in most cases it involves the vehicle which has a lot of issues that stemmed from its manufacturing which affect the safety and value of the vehicle. In the case of titles, a car that has been deemed a lemon will carry that in their title. It is inadvisable to buy one of these vehicles as it will likely be a money pit.
- Rebuilt: A vehicle with a rebuilt title will be exactly what it sounds, the vehicle will have been rebuilt after being declared a total loss by an insurance company. While rebuilt vehicles can be great and reliable cars, more often than not they have more issues than the same car that was not rebuilt. If you intend on buying a rebuilt car, know that it should not command the same price as the
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